There had been so many arguments that week, it was just easier to hide in the spare room and close the door behind me. That way there’d be nothing to get angry or shout about, nothing to make me storm out of the house to get away from it all.
I had started feeling terribly trapped. There were big things, like a major invoice that hadn’t been paid and a tax deadline, and small things: a misplaced hospital letter, the frustration of persuading a preschooler to brush his teeth. Worrying about breaking a wine glass left carelessly, I thought, by the sink. That was when my wife asked me, desperation on her face, why I wouldn’t let her help me.
I remember just feeling so angry that I couldn’t let her help, because that would mean adding to the list of things I couldn’t do on my own.
At the time, my wife and I were getting toward the end of a relationship counseling course. That was yet another source of trappedness: It seemed wonderfully New Man of me to acknowledge our need for counseling, but I was also ashamed that I needed counseling at all — despite our therapist repeatedly telling us that counseling makes perfect sense in a world where people aren’t taught constructive relationship skills.
It was too difficult to let it out to my wife, so I hate-wrote about it on Facebook. That my toxic masculinity felt like a misguided sense of responsibility where everything falls on me as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a purported head of the household who must provide. It’s a weakness to ask for or accept help. It’s shameful to say I can’t do something. Never doing things with people, instead feeling like I must do them for people, and where I disempower everyone I love while thinking I’m protecting and providing for them. On my worst days, it came between me and my family, isolating me from the very people who want to help.